Instagram and Exploitation

exploitation A small bit of good news: There has apparently been an “explosion of Instagram bashing” since Monday’s announcement by that Facebook subsidiary that it was changing its membership terms. The change, now retracted (no doubt temporarily), read as follows:

“You agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your user name, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata) and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

In Marxian (and also human) terms, this is quite interesting and important, as it would represent the expansion of exploitation — the seizure of the proceeds of unpaid labor-time — into the realm of social media usage. When and if Facebook accomplishes this trick — and history strongly suggests it will, eventually, if it hasn’t already, people who use its “services” will be doing unpaid work for it as users.

5 Replies to “Instagram and Exploitation”

  1. Obviously, there is some sort of minimal joy in deliberately trying to cull as many harmful activities as possible from one’s life (TV, radio, newspapers, facebook [of course]). It is good to get into the habit of “can I get by without this?”/”do I really need this and why”.

    So that’s pretty obvious in the abstract. The problem is that so many harmful and unnecessary behaviors are so deeply integrated with our daily lives, that they, as frivolous as they may be “objectively” are surely essential socially. Some obvious examples of course would include “proper” dress, having a car, receiving healthcare in the most inefficient way possible, etc. to infinity (i wonder how many of these I simply cannot even notice anymoer). Absurd or not, we partake in this bullshit or risk “social death”.

    Anyhow, the point being, that I wonder how long it will be until participation in the social media universe will reach the status of a “thing you can literally cannot function without”. Obviously, you can already get strange looks when saying that you don’t have a Facebook, but it is more than that – e.g., so many online services already require some sort of identification via FB account, that it is probably only a matter of time until it actually becomes a precondition for accessing important services. From there to the implanted RFID chip it is just a small step.

    (Hey, just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me ;))

    As for sucking up labor, maybe that’s good news: if they are down to trying to squeeze some value out of bullshit online behavior, maybe we are close to a tipping point where labor is such a small portion of capital, that the whole thing stops. As modern capital goods cannot function without cheaply available massive quantities of energy, I don’t think they can hope to avoid reconing by simply redurecting most of us back to manual labor…

  2. One might argue that by getting people to reveal their personal information, interests, and hobbies, so that it can all be sold to information brokers and advertisers, Facebook and other social networking sites have for years already met the definition of exploitation.

    That is, unless we are being “paid” in our supposedly improved ability to connect socially. Which would probably be Facebook’s argument to your original point, now that I think about it.

    @Marla Singer – Along the same lines, for many of us social media has already reached that point. I’m not too ashamed to admit my (offline) social life suffers tremendously from avoiding Facebook.

    But in more concrete terms, plenty of websites out there require a Facebook account in order to place comments. Others require an option of Facebook, Google+, or Twitter. It’s so rare already for someone not to use one of those three – and so easy for sites to use something like DISQUS which makes their implementation nearly flawless – that most don’t even think twice.

  3. It’s certainly an interesting case to think about how close to literal class exploitation Facebook already was. But I do see a difference between data scraping and this new rule, which would literally mean Facebook receiving direct, unshared payments for actual produced-and-delivered products, rather than just metadata.

    I’m not saying that’s necessarily a huge difference, but it feels like one. Am I wrong?

  4. No, you’re right, there’s certainly a difference. The good thing is that it’s easier to explain to people that their content is being used, than it is to explain to them the intricacies of the world of information and advertising. So when something like this happens, there’s often an immediate blowback and usually the terms get reverted.

    I’m reminded of Facebook’s old ToS which stated they could (literally) do whatever they wanted with not just everything users posted on their accounts, but anything you allowed users to share through social buttons. And honestly, reading it now I can’t tell if they’ve still managed to weasel around that or not…

  5. Here is another example of exploitation that I was just reminded (i.e. subjected to) of:

    We all know that the automated phone lines, self-check ins etc. are among the ways to save on labor costs and shift some of the labor onto the customers.

    However, the new automated “fraud prevention systems” on bank cards take this way beyond that. They have become so tight and intrusive, that they actually INTERFERE with using your own goddamned card legitimately. This happens often enough to throw me into a fit of rage on this new year’s day.

    the typical scenario I experience is: 1) I make a purchase at some web outlet as usual. 2) a day or two later I get an automated call from the “fraud prevention center”.

    Then, after wasting some time to “identify myself” to the computer, I have to listen to a bunch of transactions and indicate if they are suspicious or not. Needless to say, I typically have no idea what is what, so I end up approving everything. (and if I don’t, my card gets terminated, obviously).

    Basically, I am regularly robbed of 10-20 minutes of my life, just to avoid the minimal chance that some cocksucker’s bottom line may be hurt.

    Not to worry though, I’m already anguished about shopping for anything, this type of abuse will only increase to minimize any expenditures. But that’s not the real issue. Is there a clearer example of Big Brother shoving a flashlight up your ass and determining, based on arbitrary or self-interested criteria whether or not you will be able to participate in the commerce life of society???:??

Comments are closed.